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How to be a Druid in Derbyshire

October 27th, 2010
From the BBC website:
Cat Treadwell

As a Druid priest, the outdoors is Cat Treadwell’s second home

If you thought Druids were bearded men given to wearing long white robes and dreaming of glories past, then clearly you have yet to meet Cat Treadwell.

She has been a practising Druid for some ten years now, a member of her local Derbyshire Grove.

For her getting out into nature is the key: “representing the turning of the seasons” and measuring “how the world impacts on us, and we on it”.

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Breton Mistletoe

October 25th, 2010

Can anyone tell me why there is so much mistletoe in Brittany? Here is a familiar scene photographed today near Paimpont:

Rizzle Kicks – Hot Tips 2

October 21st, 2010

A few months ago I posted a Youtube clip of a band I just knew was going to make it. I posted it as ‘Hot Tip’. Surprise surprise when I see in The Guardian that great minds think alike! Maybe I should give up the Druid thing and go into the music biz?

Here’s the start of the Guardian piece and the clip in case you missed it:

The background: Some bands you can’t believe it when they make it big; others you don’t get it when they don’t, even if they’re not your cup of tea. Rizzle Kicks – two 18-year-old MCs from Brighton who rap over indie, rock and pop, reggae and soul and mariachi (yes, mariachi) samples – have already released an EP, Shun the Non-Believer, although it was off their own backs and hardly widely distributed, even in virtual terms, and there’s a mixtape called Minor Breaches of Discipline, which again you’re unlikely to find in your local disc emporium – you’ll have to wade through YouTube for individual tracks. The point is, if you like the idea of two 18-year-old Brightonians rapping wittily and cheekily over samples of Lily Allen, the White Stripes and Arctic Monkeys, you’ll love what Rizzle Kicks do, and if you concern yourself with the commercial potential of such things, you’ll be scratching your head, wondering how come this pair haven’t been snapped up yet and had a bunch of top 10 hits. Read More

The Halloween of Crossbones

October 20th, 2010

If the last post piqued your interest you might like to go to this event:

The Hideout @ Debut London – formerly SEOne, The Drome,
29 Weston Street, London SE1
Sunday 31st October 7pm
Tickets £13.00 / Concessions £10.00 http://www.wegottickets.com/event/95752
The 13th performance of the legendary Halloween celebration –
a ritual drama to honour the Spirits of Crossbones Graveyard and YOU!
Featuring: John Constable (aka John Crow) and Michelle Watson – The Southwark Mysteries
Nigel of Bermondsey and Vanessa Woolf – London Dreamtime
Tom Baker (Bohemianauts); Michelle M, Goose Girls, Crow Priestesses and Samurai
* Partake in the Samhain ritual.
* Commune in the Tantric Pulse.
* Journey with the Goose and Crow in visionary songs and poems.
* Bring your own personal totems, photos and mementoes for the Altar to the Ancestors.
* The performance ends with a candlelit procession to Crossbones Graveyard.

Entry to The Hideout at DEBUT London is under London Bridge station
near the northern end of Weston Street, in the tunnel between St Thomas’ Street and Tooley Street
MAP here: http://www.viewlondon.co.uk/clubs/hideout-maps-67102.html

Doors open at 7pm
Tickets £13.00 / Concessions £10.00 This event is always fully booked!
To book tickets now go to: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/95752
Pre-paid tickets must be collected by 7:15pm – any uncollected tickets will be made available for sale from 7:15pm.
To pay on the night, arrive from 6:30pm to join the queue for available tickets.
Licensed premises – over 18s only

We’ll have a limited number of tickets available to sell at the next Crossbones Vigil at the gates in Redcross Way – gather for 7pm on 23rd October.
Easier for us though, is if you can book online (click link) – then be sure to arrive on the 31st by 7.15, before the portal closes, to prepare for the ceremony. We regret that we cannot reserve tickets without pre-payment.

Samhain and Crossbones

October 20th, 2010

Samhain will be with us soon. Samhain is the Pagan and Druid festival time of 31Oct-2 November (in the northern hemisphere – May 1st in the southern), which is dedicated to the Ancestors and remembering those who have passed on. Those in the Druid community will have many people to remember this year: Isaac Bonewits, Alexei Kondratiev, Gordon Strachan, Sid Rawle, Douglas Lyne, and Hamish Miller – all significant figures for us – have packed their bags and moved to the Summerlands over the last twelve months.

I’m off today to celebrate Samhain with French druids in the magical forest of Broceliande in Brittany. In thinking of the Ancestors and Remembrance, here is a guest blog post by Maria Ede-Weaving, about ‘Crossbones’. We’re planning an event there next year in honour of John Michell. More details when finalised!

The Crossbones Graveyard: Remembrance and Healing

One of the most extraordinary and moving acts of remembrance that I have recently encountered is that of the Crossbones Cemetery in Southwark, London. Here, south of the River Thames – in the area where London Bridge spans the river – is Bankside and the Borough. Historically, this area was outside the old City of London’s boundaries and laws. As you crossed the river in to what was known as the ‘Liberty of the Clink’ you entered the underbelly of city life; here were prisons, drinking houses, gambling and prostitution, bear baiting and all manner of shady and edgy pursuits. In this chaotic, colourful and brutal environment the theatre was born; art imitating life at a place where living was experienced at its most visceral.

This area came under the ruling of the Bishop of Winchester, the ruins of his palace still visible near Southwark Cathedral. The prostitutes of the Liberty were under the Bishop’s licence for 500 years (they were known as ‘Winchester Geese’) but in an act of supreme hypocrisy they were denied burial in consecrated ground. The Crossbones Graveyard was where these unfortunate women ended their lives. In its latter years it became a pauper’s burial site. It was a place of forgotten souls, those whose lives had often been brutal and short and whose stories had been ignored.

This might have continued to be so but for one of those strange twists of fate. During improvements to the Jubilee Line, London Transport dug upon the land that had once – unknown to most – been the graveyard; their digging immediately unearthed skulls and bones and so further work was halted while Museum of London archaeologists were brought in to investigate and remove skeletons.

At around the same point, the playwright, poet and performer John Constable was making his own surprising discoveries with regard to the Crossbones site. Without knowing of its existence, he was drawn one night to this desolate piece of industrial ground by a poetic ‘voice’ in his head. The poem came to him in an inspired rush. It soon became apparent that the voice of this poem was that of a Winchester Goose, the ‘spirit’ of a Liberty prostitute who had been laid to rest at ‘Crossbones’. It was as if London Transport’s digging had unearthed not merely the bones of the dead but their unheard voices too.

Constable’s writing and later research led him to discover that the Crossbones cemetery had indeed once existed –  it had not merely been something his imagination had conjured that first night that ‘The Goose’ had introduced herself. Those earlier poems went on to become part of a larger work of modern mystery plays known as the Southwark Mysteries and since then John has become a champion of those ‘despised and rejected’ souls.

John and the Friends of Crossbones hold monthly ceremonies at the gates of this ‘hidden’ ancient graveyard. The land is mainly waste ground which is out of bounds to the public. They clear rubbish and tend the space lovingly. The gates themselves have become a beautiful shrine covered in ribbons, flowers and tokens. As names of those interred here have gradually been rediscovered, John ties ribbons with these names written upon them; the gates are festooned, transforming this rather bleak place into something beautiful. This act of remembrance is incredibly powerful and moving. John understands Crossbones to be a ‘wound of history’ and that the work that he and others are doing at the site is a way of healing that wound, of acknowledging those who in their lives and deaths had been treated with such disdain and indifference. He believes that this work of naming and acknowledging the lost and forgotten not only brings peace and healing to those long dead but has a transformative impact on us too.

John’s approach is very near and dear to that of modern Druids. As Druids we understand the importance of honouring the ancestors, of remembering those forgotten ones. We sense that they are the foundation of our being; their days lived and shed are the countless layers of fertile psychic soil that we root ourselves within. They are you and me; we are them. Their mistakes and lessons are ours and every cell of our bodies holds a memory of their experiences. In Druidry, we aim to respectfully draw upon these for their wisdom and guidance. We know that our own stories will vanish beneath the soil all too soon and so, in remembering those who have gone before, we are also acknowledging that all existence counts; that each voice, no matter how lowly, has something valuable to add to the ever deepening and unfolding story of life. The Ancestors can enable us to remember who we truly are and in caring for them, we also begin to learn to care for our descendants too; their futures matter to us. In acknowledging the forgotten ones, we tie the thread of life – the past, present and future – into a circle, a symbol of the eternal bonds of love and experience, the spiralling of life, death and rebirth that makes us one with each other and all creation.

History is so often written by the powerful and wealthy. The political and financial manoeuvrings of a country’s elite in reality is an extremely narrow view of history, one that excludes the rich and complex day to day experience of ordinary folk.  What John Constable and the Friends of Crossbones dedication and care illustrates is that when we acknowledge the story of those forgotten lives – the struggles, the degradation and the poverty; the heroism and vision of ordinary people who had the odds unfairly stacked against them – we are also acknowledging our common humanity. It teaches us how to treat each other in the here and now –with kindness, respect and care.

I find it incredibly moving that this place has become a shrine to the lost. These beautiful gates are not only an entrance to the past; they are a place where redemption is found for all those who find themselves cruelly and unfairly exiled. Here we gather those lost souls back into the fold of our humanity; here we reclaim something of ourselves.

Please do visit the Crossbones website http://www.crossbones.org.uk/# . John and the Friends of Crossbones are campaigning to save the south and oldest end of the graveyard from development. They would like to create a memorial garden. So please do sign their petition! More info in the video below:

Maria Ede-Weaving

The Edge of Dreaming Tonight

October 19th, 2010

A Facebook friend alerted me to this film several weeks ago, and I could only track down a trailer. It looks fascinating and now it’s being broadcast tonight on UK TV at 10pm on Channel More 4 (under heading True Stories: Dangerous Dreams). Made in Scotland, it has been the most watched film in America on PBS for several weeks. The poet Jay Ramsay says: “It really touches the mystery and interface between the unconscious and reality”. From the film’s site: ‘This is the story of a rational, sceptical woman, a mother and wife, who does not remember her dreams. Except once, when she dreamt her horse was dying. She woke so scared she went outside in the night. She found him dead. The next dream told her she would die herself, when she was 48. The Edge of Dreaming charts every step of that year. The film explores life and death in the context of a warm and loving family, whose happiness is increasingly threatened as the dream seems to be proving true. From the kids reaction to their horses’ death (they taught the dog a new trick – called ‘dead dog’), the film mixes humour, science and married life as Amy attempts to understand what is happening to her. Everyone wrestles with the concept of their own mortality, but few so directly explore and confront the subject. When Amy fell seriously ill, as her dream predicted, she went on a search to change that dream, leading her to eminent neuroscientist Mark Solms, and to new understanding of the complexity of our brains. The final confrontation, going back into her dream with the help of a shaman, reveals a surprising twist to the tale. In the guise of an intimate and entertaining autobiography The Edge of Dreaming explores the timeless themes of consciousness and destiny, dreams and reason. Animation, home movies and the spectacular Scottish landscape make the journey a pleasure for the senses and a celebration of the desire for life.’
Here’s the trailer:

Mul Mantra

October 17th, 2010

The Golden Temple Amritsar


Snatam Kaur sings Sikh songs and mantras beautifully. Here is her website. And here is a video of her ‘Mul Mantra’: a beautiful way to appreciate the mystical essence of the Sikh religion.

Don’t Let Bits of Cornwall and Devon Merge!

October 13th, 2010

From the BBC site:

Campaigners against proposals for a new parliamentary constituency which would incorporate parts of Devon and Cornwall are staging a two-day protest.

Government plans suggest constituencies with 75,000 voters, which would incorporate part of both counties

Cornwall’s six MPs have criticised any moves to combine the constituencies.

Protestors are following the River Tamar from Marsland Point in Devon to Saltash in Cornwall where they are due to stage a rally on Sunday.

Plans to re-draw the boundaries are being discussed at Westminster on Tuesday.

It is predicted that if boundaries are changed, South East Cornwall or North Cornwall would merge with Devon West and Torridge or Plymouth Moor View, incorporating two sides of the River Tamar.

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